Parents and Teachers Unite: The 10 Best ESL Websites for Kids to Learn English Anywhere
Want an extra boost to help improve your children’s or students’ English?
Even if your child or student is making good progress already, there comes a point when they’re most likely getting bored of drills and worksheets. Can you blame them?
While worksheets, online English courses, drills and tests are sometimes necessary, playing games can be just as useful for children to learn.
In fact, children often need to have breaks from traditional classroom lessons. That’s where online resources come in. There are many websites out there to help children practice a wide range of skills, all without leaving the comfort of their own home.
The best part? Many of these websites are jam-packed with fun activities that children will keep coming back for more! Let’s not forget that many of these websites provide free content as well.
Most of these websites are mobile and desktop friendly, so if you wanted to have them practice on the go, you won’t run into any issues.
However, it’s important to realize that a list of websites you can use in the classroom or at home isn’t enough. You’ve got to get really involved in the learning process!
How Can Children Learn English Using Websites?
- Work Together, Learn Together. Adults forget sometimes that they need to model behavior they want to see in children. If your student or child never sees you being interested in using the resources you provide them, how can you expect them to be interested at all? Start off with exploring websites together and learning how to use the games or activities together. The more you’re involved with the learning process, the more your child or student will be motivated to explore on their own eventually.
- Find Topics That Interest the Student. Would learning about topics that don’t interest you motivate you to learn? Make sure you spend time with your children or students to figure out what they’re personally interested in the most, and cater website resources to what they like, as well as to what they need to work on the most.
For example, on the FluentU, you can assign authentic English videos as homework. This allows you to cater the topic to each individual student, whether you think they’ll enjoy learning with a music video or a TED talk.
FluentU’s videos are optimized for students with interactive subtitles (allowing students to click on any word to see its meaning and add it to a flashcard deck), as well as multimedia transcripts, key word banks and personalized exercises following each video and flashcard deck. This program is an easy way to help your kids learn without it feeling like learning.
- Make It Fun. Find some way, any way, to make websites as interactive as possible (because not all of them are set up for interaction). Try turning games into friendly competitions between adults and kids, and you might see that this can help revive interest in learning English.
- Go Outside. Sometimes all it takes is a change in scenery to motivate children. Take a mobile device or your laptop to places like a park, or even your back porch, and watch children get excited about practicing their English.
- Don’t Take Too Long. Children have shorter attention spans than adults. If you make them focus on something too long, they’ll lost interest. It’ll eventually feel like they’re being forced into an activity, and children will rebel against practicing their English. If you’re doing lessons, limit activities to 10 minutes or less. For activities where they’re reinforcing skills already learned, spend no more than 20 to 30 minutes a day doing these, depending on their age.
Now that you’ve got some tips to help children learn English, start with this list of websites below and soon you may well see your children’s English abilities dramatically improve.
The 10 Best ESL Websites for Kids to Learn English at Home and School
1. Fun Brain
There are over 100 interactive activities here to help kids from preschool to grade 8 develop skills in English literacy. Not only that, but there’s a wide variety of books children can read directly on the website, such as “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”
Even the arcade games allows children a chance to practice their reading in order to play games successfully. All the games are safe for kids, and they encourage children to manipulate the keyboard and mouse so they can learn to be independent on the computer.
Featured resource: Grammar Gorillas, a game where players have to recognize parts of speech to feed bananas to gorillas.
Tip for home use: Have your child pick a game from the arcade section and practice reading instructions so they can complete games independently.
Tip for school use: Pick an appropriate book or comic on the site to read to small groups or the whole class.
2. Breaking News English
All the materials on Breaking News English are based off news headlines and current events from around the world. Featuring 7 different reading levels for each news story, each lesson has up to 26 pages of activities and handouts to accompany each story. As an added bonus, users can complete online quizzes and download stories as mp3 files.
Featured resource: Speed Reading Activities. Choose from different news articles to help reading fluency.
Tip for home use: Have your child pick a story they’re interested in, or pick one for them based on their interests. Encourage your child to read by rewarding them with a corresponding game at the end.
Tip for school use: Break up class into reading abilities and read the same story with different levels. Students then can pair up or get together in groups of 3 to summarize the text and complete discussion questions together.
3. PBS Kids
It’s worth it to spend time digging through all the interactive resources that this website has to offer. Featuring resources such as writing contests, videos, apps and digital resources for educators, children will never tire of the wide variety of activities on this website.
Featured resource: “The Berenstein Bears.” The website section devoted to this beloved children’s book franchise includes videos and games featuring the titular characters.
Tip for home use: Explore the PBS Parents section where you can look into planning parties, and use it as a chance to have get-togethers to encourage English speaking activities and games. Children can practice listening to instructions in English from parents to complete crafts and recipes.
Tip for school use: Explore PBS Media, where PBS has teamed up with leading educational developers to provide free resources such as infographics, videos and interactive games to use in the classroom.
4. International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL)
Featuring one of the largest collections of free books for children, the website has made it so that anyone can access their books, even without registering. Users can search for books according to language, age level and genre. You can sign up for an account where you can bookmark books and save your favorites for later reading.
Featured resource: Featured Books, where you can find books that are recommended by a staff member, usually sorted by theme.
Tip for home use: Have your child read to you (or vice versa) before they go to bed at night. If they find a book they like, have them reading the same one for extra fluency practice.
Tip for school use: Have each student sign up for an individual account and save searches to use during independent reading time or during guided reading groups.
5. Literacy Center
Featuring over 150 million online games and printable activities for preschool children, the resources on this website aim to encourage playful learning for children. Resources include print writing practice and games to practice letters on the keyboard.
Tip for home use: Parents can help children practice their skills in the game section, and even in their home language (the site currently features Spanish, German, and French) as an added bonus.
Tip for school use: Hop on over to the Resources section, where teachers can tie in activities to the US Common Core standards for literacy.
6. Raz Kids
Although this website requires a subscription to access its full features, it’s worth it if you have multiple children or teach classes of varying literacy levels. You can print books according to levels and topics, create your own books and search for appropriate benchmark tests.
Featured resource: Headsprout, a supplemental program that helps non-readers or struggling readers with individualized lessons.
Tip for home use: Work with your child using the read-aloud texts before bedtime or while you’re on the go, during road trips or commutes.
Tip for school use: Create accounts for each student to keep track of progress and assign individual activities within the parameters of your class, or as a supplemental resource.
This website features reading resources for children from preschool to first grade. There are guided reading materials and supplemental reading resources as well as phonic activities so kids can have fun while completing levels. Everything is developed by teachers and parents in the US, so you can rest assured that the resources have been tested.
Featured resource: Road to Reading. Download this program featuring interactive activities to help children develop phonemic skills.
Tip for home use: Register for a free account and download games for you and your child to play together.
Tip for school use: Download full resources for guided reading activities for your class.
8. Story Starter Jr.
Selected as one of the 10 best websites for writers by Writer’s Digest Magazine, Story Starter Jr. generates a random story starter to get kids’ imaginations kick-started and help them to create a story of their own.
Tip for home use: Use the story starters to create pictures with your kid to practice reading comprehension.
Tip for school use: Use story starters for individual assignments or partner up to create stories to present to the whole class.
9. Scholastic Kids
One of the biggest book publishers, this website does not disappoint. Separated by resources for parents and teachers, Scholastic Kids features activities such as reading contests, interactive scrapbook games and printables.
Featured resource: Spelling Wizard. Adults can enter in spelling words and activities will be created to help children memorize their spelling lessons.
Tip for home use: Parents can start reading parent guides here to help their child get the most out of the resources on the website.
Tip for school use: Teachers can go over to the large selection of whiteboard activities where there are many interactive tools that can be employed for the whole class.
10. Highlights Kids
The website is equally as fun as the activities featured in their monthly print magazine. Resources include animated stories, a poetry maker and a section where kids can send in their work and be featured on the website.
Featured resource: Hidden Pictures, where children have to look for images hidden inside a larger picture.
Tip for home use: Play Hidden Pictures with your child to help with vocabulary building.
Tip for school use: Create listening and reading stations so students can listen along to different stories and poems.
Helping your child learn English can be fun if you provide them with the right stimulation and tools. Use any of the above websites, and you’ll be on your way to seeing happy and engaged students.
Sarah Li Cain is an international educator, children’s author and freelance commercial copywriter. She loves to find resources and find ways to continuously improve people through education and reaching their potential. You can find out more about her writing at her website.